Revving up the book machine

Now that I finally got the inevitable out of the way—holy crap was that hard to write—it’s time to get back to blog basics. Which on this blog is usually writing and cooking, just because those are some of the things I do that are more interesting to blog about. Let’s talk about writing—or rather, about books and formatting.

But first, a brief aside. I’ve mentioned often that my mother and I like to have a zoo day on the first nice spring day that falls during the week and (this is important) isn’t a Monday. That hasn’t happened yet this year, because the weather has been freaking awful. Seriously, we had a frost advisory the other night. We’re a third of the way through May and nature is finally toying with the idea of throwing us a 70° day. Still waiting. Ulgh.

Anyway, lately I’ve been getting back to book stuff. When I got my new computer this December it threw my life all out of whack, so for months I’d been putting off making a change to the print version of Below to fix an error I spotted (my fault) in the proof copy. It was bothering me that I wasn’t getting to it, because I want to get the book out and also I promised to send a copy to the cover artist (which is now in transit, having arrived in Spain today). I finally got around to all of that, and now I’m planning to release very very soon. Like next week soon. The book is going to start out free for a few days on Kindle to get the word out, and I’m planning to promote it on The book has a page on Goodreads, if you want to check that out and add it to your want-to-reads.

For lovers of physical books, I highly recommend that if you’re interested in Below, you pick up the paperback when it’s out. Mostly that’s just to enjoy the gorgeous cover art, because even with text on the back cover there’s a great deal of detail to see there. And if I do say so myself, I did a nice job on the interior formatting. I threw in a couple of homemade Celtic knots and a decorative scene break for visual flair as well.

But I didn’t stop there. It’s time to fix up the Affix for a second edition, and get it out in print. So I made some changes and got the book ready for print formatting. This time I’m going with a 5″x8″ book instead of the usual 6″x9″—basically because the word count is lower and I want the spine to have some substance—and I haven’t decided whether I’m going to go for a matte finish on the cover this time or stick with glossy.

One of the first things I had to do, and one of the major reasons I never released the book in print the first time around, was to re-render the cover so it could do a full wraparound. This allowed me a chance to also fix up the image of the stone, which actually didn’t look its best (I’ll update the cover on this blog soon enough), and also to fix up the spots on the all-2 die because I didn’t like the way they lined up on the back faces.

The blurb has been updated (that too will go live on the blog later) to change up the last paragraph, which I always felt was a bit lacking.

For interior formatting for the Affix, I had a lot more fun this time around. Although I stuck with Cardo 11pt for the body font, I decided to play with some other fonts for chapter headings and the header. I’ve also grown enamored of something William Gibson’s books have been doing for a long time, which is to align chapter headings to the outer margin instead of always center, left, or right. OpenOffice has no option for outside alignment, which isn’t surprising because most word processors don’t either; but because I’m already using macros to do final cleanup, I came up with a cheat that let me do it in the cleanup stage. (And I’m all the happier that it looks a little like a Gibson book inside because it has such a frantic current-day sci-fi sort of energy to it.)

Of course in the midst of all this excitement I’ve hit a few annoyances as well. To start with, I used to write in Microsoft Word but now that I use OpenOffice exclusively, it changed the way I prep documents for ebook conversion. Word had a nice option to save as filtered HTML, and although the output was flawed it was mostly good enough. OpenOffice’s facility for saving a document as HTML was apparently mostly written in the late ’90s by a 12-year-old Geocities enthusiast, and never updated since; the code it outputs is so bad as to be unusable, by inlining all styles instead of using a stylesheet and many other problems besides. I had to work around this with the Writer2xhtml plugin, which… also sucks, but not in the same ways. The output from Writer2html doesn’t think to output basic tags like <b> and <i> and whatnot, preferring <span> with a style attribute which is stupid stupid stupid, but at least it does use a stylesheet for actual paragraph styles.

For finalizing cover art I also upgraded Photoshop Elements. I was using the badly outdated version 3 before, and now I use 15. Here I ran into another problem: With spine text, I often want to use the same styles on the text that I do on the front cover text, but rotated. As it turns out, somewhere a few versions back Adobe decided to remove the “Use global light” checkbox from their style options—which means I can’t just copy the same styles and use a different light source for a bevel effect, for instance. It’s kind of an obnoxious Microsofty move.

So that’s where things stand with books right now in a nutshell. Below is very close to release, and I’m going to release a second Kindle edition of the Affix along with a first print edition. Exciting times!

Next up on the writing schedule is to get beta readers looking at the first book of the Merchantman Halflight series, and working out cover art along with typography. I’m still working on the third book in the series, having hit a bit of a snag where I’m not sure the adaptation is working quite right in the spot I’m at. I’ll figure it out eventually.

The next post will probably be about cooking, because I’m a creature of habit.


About Lummox JR

Aspiring to be a beloved supervillain
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